Colin Firth has cancelled his involvement in an upcoming stage production of Hamlet due to ongoing film commitments. The actor was due to star in a version at London's Riverside Studios at the start of next year but has now withdrawn after a filming agenda was altered.

The production company behind the venture, Concentric Circles, have expressed their disappointment but are believed to be talking to Firth about future projects. Firth has commented that his "worst fears were fulfilled when my filming schedule for early next year changed".

Concentric Circles is a new theatre company and they had hoped to launch their works with Firth in Hamlet. However, they have admitted to being aware of the risks involved with film productions and the demands on their star's time.

Firth was, ironically, originally discovered whilst playing Hamlet at the Drama Centre in north London. His first major stage role came as Guy Bennett in the original West End production of Another Country. The actor later received a BAFTA nomination for his portrayal of Mr Darcy in the TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

A refund will be provided for customers who have already purchased tickets for Hamlet, which was to have opened on 30 January 2002.

Concentric Circles will now present its planned production of Phedre with Sheila Gish during spring 2002. Fresh from her success this year in the Edward Albee double bill (Finding the Sun/Marriage Play) at the Royal National Theatre, Gish will be working with director Christopher Fettes once more. It is 20 years since they last collaborated on an acclaimed production of Berenice at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith. No confirmation has been signalled yet for what might take Hamlet's place on the Riverside's programme.

- by Gareth Thompson